Customer Service in a Diverse World

Customer Service in a Diverse World

Customer Service in a Diverse World

Have you ever experienced a situation in which you were in a place of business and either had a service provider make a derogatory statement to you about another customer or group of customers or overheard two employees sharing negative comments about other customers? In many instances comments or off-the-cuff statements about based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, disabilities or other diversity factors are not only hurtful but potentially discriminatory. In some instances, such remarks may be grounded in the employee’s deep-seated beliefs or personal values based on their own experiences or education. In others, they may be a result of simple ignorance related to individual customers or groups. Whatever the reason, making comments to or in the presence of other customers is unacceptable and is likely to have negative personal and business results.

I recently experienced an instance in which a small business owner of the barbershop that I’ve patronized for years made a comment that I felt was totally uncalled for and based on personal prejudice. I had commented about a newspaper article regarding a local Hindu group that had recently built a temple in the local area. I commented that I’d be interested in going over to visit the facility and learn more about the religion. My barber remarked, “Why would you want to do that? In my opinion, we should burn all those ragheads and keep them out of our country.” I was shocked since he is obviously ignorant of the topic on which he was commenting and had no concern for how his remarks might be received by others. I shared my feelings with him about what he had said and explained that he seemed to be confusing religions and ethnic groups and that in either case, his remarks were out of line and potentially offensive. His response was, “I fought in Viet Nam and I don’t trust any of these radicals.” The result of this conversation is that I now patronize a different hairstylist and have shared this story dozens of times with others.

In today’s world where people are so mobile, the economy is globally intertwined and information about other groups is so readily available through various channels, it is hard to believe that there are people who have not taken the time to discover the benefits of embracing diversity and still harbor such prejudice. Service providers who remain content to take actions such as the one I experienced not only guarantee lost business for their organization but also jeopardize their personal and professional reputation.

As I discuss in my latest book (Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Service Across Cultures), “Not only do today’s service providers have to be concerned with job knowledge, skills, and professional standards, but they also have to be cognizant of the values, beliefs, social mores, expectations, needs, and preferences of customers…They are the “face” of the organization and need all the knowledge and skills they get in the order to provide stellar customer service.”

For ideas and strategies on effectively serving customers in a multicultural and otherwise diverse world, check out the books Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures and Customer Service Skills for Success.

POSITIVE Global Customer Service Model

POSITIVE Global Customer Service Model – Serving Diverse Customers

The following acronym (POSITIVE) provides some strategies for creating or contributing to a positive global service environment and building strong relationships with your customers. It provides a model to move you from good customer service to the best customer service possible.

Put your best foot forward. Maintain a positive approach to situations involving customers, smile frequently, and have a “can-do” attitude. When dealing with customers and potential customers, never forget that they are your reason for employment.

Offer whatever level of assistance possible. In addressing customer needs and wants, go out of your way to uncover and resolve problems and to build a strong customer-provider relationship.

Stay abreast of current industry trends and strategies for delivering quality customer service. By upgrading your knowledge and skills regularly, you will be prepared to address any type of customer situation.

Identify true customer needs by listening to proactively. You have two ears and one mouth. Use them accordingly.

Take the time to get to know more about your customers. The more you know, the better you can provide quality service.

Invite your customers to open up and share information. Ask open-ended questions (e.g. Who, What, When, How, Why, and To What Extent) that typically lead to more detailed responses from others.

Verify understanding. When a customer provides information, ensure that you heard and understood it correctly before responding. Use closed-ended (typically start with an action verb) to gather this information.

Engage in relationship-building strategies immediately. Use strong interpersonal communication skills. Start with a smile (on your face and in your voice and words) and a professional greeting when meeting customers face-to-face, over the telephone or in an email. If something goes wrong, immediately start on a course of service recovery with a sincere apology and taking steps to “make the customer whole” again with any appropriate compensation.

Source: Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service across Cultures, Lucas. R.W., McGraw-Hill Professional, New York, NY (2011).
Bob Lucas B.S., M.A., M.A, CPLP is principal in Robert W. Lucas Enterprises, Inc and an internationally-known author and learning and performance professional. He has written and contributed to thirty-one books and compilations. He regularly conducts creative training, train-the-trainer, customer service, interpersonal communication and management, and supervisory skills workshops. Learn more about Bob and his organization at and follow his blogs at,, and Like Bob at

Importance of a Positive Attitude in a Service Culture

Importance of a Positive Attitude in a Service Culture

Ever thought about the word attitude? Some say that attitude is everything. If yours is positive, then you likely succeed and are happy. If it is negative, chances are you find yourself feeling depressed and constantly dealing with stressful situations or confrontations with others.

Importance of a Positive Attitude in a Service Culture - See more at:

Look at it this way, a positive attitude can allow you to give 100% in your daily efforts. Don’t believe it? The American English alphabet has twenty-six letters in it. Go through the alphabet and identify the numeric placement for each letter in the alphabet, then add those numbers together to see what you get. I’ll make it easy for you: A = 1; T = 20; T = 20; I = 9; T = 20; U = 21; D = 4; E =5. Total = 100!

Everyone has a “bad” day now and then at work. With all the pressures of the economy, family, health and other things that can surface in your life, it is no wonder that you would sometimes rather stay in bed and pull the covers over your head rather than go to work. Unfortunately, most people are not independently wealthy or in a position to do that.

Once you get to work, it is important that you try to put personal or other issues that might be negatively impacting you aside and give 100% effort to your job, employer and customers. After all, those are the elements that allow you to get paid and have opportunities in life.

The bottom line is that your customers deserve nothing less than a 100% positive attitude from you and others in your organization. By creating a customer-centric environment in which you and your peers focus on identifying and satisfying customer needs, wants and expectations, the chance of everyone succeeding increases. Additionally, providing the best customer service possible can lead to increased brand loyalty from your customers.

Learn About Robert C. Lucas – author of the Importance of a Positive Attitude in a Service Culture blog article

Bob Lucas has been a trainer, presenter, customer service expert, and adult educator for over four decades. He has written hundreds of articles on training, writing, self-publishing, and workplace learning skills and issues. He is also an award-winning author who has written thirty-seven books on topics such as, writing, relationships, customer service, brain-based learning, and creative training strategies, interpersonal communication, diversity, and supervisory skills. Additionally, he has contributed articles, chapters, and activities to eighteen compilation books. Bob retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1991 after twenty-two years of active and reserve service.

Make Money Writing Books: Proven Profit Making Strategies for Authors by Robert W. Lucas at

The key to successfully making money as an author and/or self-publisher is to brand yourself and your company and to make yourself and your book(s) a household name. Part of this is face-to-face interaction with people at trade shows, library events, book readings, book store signings, blogging or guest blogging on a topic related to their book(s). Another strategy involves writing articles and other materials that show up online and are found when people search for a given topic related to a topic about which the author has written.

If you need help building an author platform, branding yourself and your book(s) or generating recognition for what you do, Make Money Writing Books will help. Bob’s popular book addresses a multitude of ideas and strategies that you can use to help sell more books and create residual and passive income streams. The tips outlined in the book are focused to help authors but apply to virtually any professional trying to increase personal and product recognition and visibility.

In my book Customer Service Skills for Success, I define customer service as “the ability of knowledgeable, capable, and enthusiastic employees to deliver products and services to their internal and external customers in a manner that satisfies identified and unidentified needs and ultimately results in positive word-of-mouth publicity and return business.”

Strengthening Customer Communication

Strengthening Customer Communication

Customers who feel that they have an active role and control of a service-provider interaction often feel more important and valued. Improved interpersonal communication can lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction and retention and reduced stress for you and your co-workers.Strengthening Customer Communication

Take advantage of the following strategies to build stronger relationships with your internal and external customers.

Gather Information

 Ask for customer input whenever possible. By knowing more about their needs, wants and expectations, you will be better able to provide services and products that satisfy them. Use strategies you will find in this chapter to gather valuable information from people who you encounter on a daily basis.

Be Consistent

People tend to like what is familiar. If customers come to know that they can depend on you and your organization to regularly provide timely, factual information, they will likely be more loyal. Provide information and updates to customers on a regular basis, not just when it is convenient for you. This is especially true when you are working on a problem or service breakdown. Remember that they do now know what you know. For example, if you are gathering information or need more time than expected, come back to the customer with periodic updates to give them a status check.

Demonstrate Openness

Customers often want to see that service providers understand them on a personal level. The worst thing you can do as a service provider is to hide behind a policy or deflect responsibility when dealing with a customer issue or question. Think of how you likely react when a service provider says something like, “I can’t do that because our policy says…” You probably feel the hairs rise on the back of your neck and become agitated. Your customers are no different. When interacting with them, take the time to put yourself in their place before saying something or taking an action that might create an adversarial situation.

Be Personable

Service providers who tend to be “all business” or robotic in their service delivery often fail to get high marks from customers. Even if you are knowledgeable, efficient and follow all the rules in delivering service, you could end up with a customer who is dissatisfied if you do not demonstrate some degree of humanness. This means connecting on a personal level and showing compassion and concern for your customers and their emotional needs.

By communicating effectively and regularly with your customers, you show that you are more than a customer service representative; you are a person. For example, if someone tells you during an interaction that they are celebrating a special event take the time to ask explore the topic briefly or relate a personal example. If it’s their child’s birthday, you might wish the child an enthusiastic “Happy Birthday” and ask him or her how old they are or what they hope to get for their birthday. Depending on the type of business you are in, you might even offer a small present (e.g. a free dessert, a piece of candy, a toy, coupon for a discount on their next visit, or whatever might be appropriate). At the least, upon concluding the transaction, wish them well or congratulate them one more time.

Creating a Service Culture

Creating a Service Culture

Creating a Service Culture

Most workers do not realize that everyone in the organization, from the CEO down, is in the service business and is responsible for helping create and maintain the service culture. This means that whether you world with external customers (people who contact you and pay for your products and services) or internal customers (people who work in other areas of the organization, and to whom you provide or get information and services to allow you to do your job) you are a service representative to others.

It does not matter whether your work for a large multi-national organization or a small business, the principle is the same; nor, does it matter if your title is Customer Service Representative or CEO. You are the “face” of the organization when interacting with others. By the way, this applies when you are standing in line in your uniform or with a company nametag on at a fast-food restaurant at lunchtime and someone asks a question or complains about a situation with your company. What you do and say next reflects on you as a person and as a representative of your organization. Depending on how you handle such situations, you can project a positive professional image or can come across as someone, or an organization, with whom the person does not want to patronize. If you forget this point, you potentially lose customers and revenue for your organization. That means fewer dollars for raises, benefits, training and upgraded equipment or supplies to do your job.

Exactly what is a service culture in an organization? The answer is that it is different for each organization. No two organizations operate in the same manner, have the same focus, or provide management that accomplishes the same results. Among other things, culture includes the values, beliefs, norms, rituals, and practices of a group or organization. Any policy, procedure, action, or inaction on the part of your organization contributes to the service culture. Other elements may be specific to your organization or industry.

As an employee, you may communicate the culture through your appearance, your interaction with customers, and your knowledge, skill, and attitude. The latter element is crucial in your success and that of your organization.

As a service provider, if you take a job just to have a paycheck without buying into the service culture and supporting the goals of the organization, both you and the organization will lose. Each person in an organization should strive to help build strong customer-provider relationships

For you to be successful in the service industry (or any other for that matter) you must take ownership of your roles and responsibilities and show commitment to doing the best you can every day that you go to work. Even further, you must project a positive attitude when you are not at work as well. All the time, your goal should not be to deliver the best customer service possible.

A big challenge to any organizational culture comes in the form of social media. Many people have become a victim to careless comments that they placed about their organization, supervisors or peers on Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media site.  Think about the number of times you have heard friends “bad mouth” their boss, organization, products, and services. Did their attitude toward their job inspire you to want to patronize their workplace or apply for a job there? If you were to take the same approach in sharing information about your organization or the people in it, there can be a negative effect on you and the organization. What you do or say around others in any environment sends a powerful message about you, your level of professionalism and your organization. If you cannot support your employer; quit and find a job where you can. To do less is being unfair to yourself and your organization.

The bottom line is that contributing to the service culture of your organization is the responsibility and everyone else who works there.

For more ideas on how to provide excellent customer service and help create a positive customer service culture, get a copy of Customer Service Skills for Success.

Avoiding Customer Service Breakdowns

Avoiding Customer Service Breakdowns

There are a number of things that you might do as a customer service representative that can irritate customers or cause them to form a negative opinion of your or your organization. Remember that your goal should be to project a professional presence, help create a positive service culture and provide the best possible customer service.

The following is a partial listing of actions that you should avoid at all costs when customers are present or on the telephone.

-Do not forget that your co-workers and people from other departments in your organization are your internal customers. Treat them with the same courtesy, respect, and attention that you would an external customer.

-Talking to a co-worker about a non-work related topic;

-Engaging in lengthy personal conversations with a customer;

-Bringing up sensitive topics for discussion with a customer (e.g. politics, religion, abortion, civil or gun rights, or any other controversial subject);

-Performing administrative tasks (e.g. filing or working on the computer);

-Waiting until you run out of currency, coins or forms before getting more;

-Not having your computer booted up and software activated and ready to access before the start of business;

-Interrupting service for one customer to deal with another’s question;

-Discussing personal problems or complaining about ANYTHING to another customer or co-worker;

-Conveying a sense that you are overworked or do not have time to deal with the customer’s needs;

-Talking about or disrespecting a competitor.

For more information about providing positive customer service, how to avoid service breakdowns and strategies for service recovery when things do go wrong, get a copy of Customer Service Skills for Success.

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